About Sherry Sommer

I grew up in southeast Denver and have lived in Boulder County (first Boulder and now Louisville) for 33 years. Colorado has changed a lot in the past 60 years, (surprise!) but many constants make this place home: Gorgeous and ever changing clouds, bright blue and wide open skies, trees and gardens flourishing in a dry climate, family roots, South Church... I've certainly changed over the years, and am thankful beyond words for the the ever present and faithful love of God, no matter what the circumstances. The months beginning in January, 2022, were quite a challenge: Caring for my father, Sam Masoudi, dealing with the aftermath of the Marshall Fire, and community engagement kept me fully alert and working! Now, with the passing of my father and an empty nest, I'm in a new phase of life. I'm eagerly anticipating the challenges and surprises I know will be in store! Being on the devotional team has added so my to my life and I look forward to writing and learning more and more.

The Hunger and Thirst For Righteousness

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. Matthew 5:6 ESV

What is it to hunger and thirst for righteousness? And how can someone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness be filled?

To hunger and thirst is to have deep needs and deep aches that are completely consuming, taking up all of a person’s thoughts. There is a desire for righteousness that most people can identify with, a desire for injustice to be addressed. This can take many forms — lingering sadness, annoyance, self righteousness, despair, entitlement, and anger. In my mind, these reactions are more superficial than what Jesus is talking about. What Jesus means, I believe, is a desire to see righteousness in the world and within oneself. That’s the point at which the desire for righteousness becomes consuming. That’s the point at which we realize we cannot survive, let alone thrive, without being filled.

How can Jesus offer the hope that we can be filled?

There’s no end to injustice; we see it all around us. Given the way news is presented so negatively in order to get viewers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to believe that there is no righteousness on this earth.

I believe our desire for righteousness will never be completely filled this side of eternity, but I also believe we can experience the filling Jesus talks about. I’m a grassroots leader in my town, and for me, getting involved in my community has been one way to be filled.

I love the definition Alex gave of “vision” recently: He said, having vision is “imagining what could be and should be”.

I’ve met with others sharing visions for ways our local government could and should be better; and so, we have worked together toward achieving these common goals. As we go beyond consuming media to get involved addressing issues, we can start to be filled by connecting with others —  having the satisfaction of working toward common goals and the peace that comes from inner change.

The Hunger and Thirst For Righteousness2023-09-17T15:56:19-06:00

Jesus Speaks to Us All

Who did Jesus speak to in the Sermon on the Mount? Why does he bring this crowd together? What can we infer that he applies to us today?

Normally, when I think of a crowd, I think of an impersonal mass of people. In this case however, I believe Jesus has something completely different in mind that he delivers to a crowd for a very intentional purpose.

Matthew records that Jesus taught both this crowd of people and his disciples. Looking back at Matthew 4:18-25, describes the people following Jesus in more detail. Who are these people? How might they have received Jesus’ words?

  • People came from all over Galilee. (4:23)
  • Jesus taught in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom. (4:23)
  • They were people in the synagogues that he healed from diseases and sicknesses. (4:23)
  • They came from Syria. (4:24)
  • People brought “all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.” (4:24)
  • Large crowds came from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the region across the Jordan. (4:25)

The answer seems to be that it was likely that Jesus could have spoken to everyone in the region: people from all the cultures, religions, and geographical locations. Matthew indicates that Jesus was drawing people from Greek, Roman, Syrian, and Jewish areas, people in the synagogues and people outside, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the ruling Romans, the conquered Judeans, people who had never met Jesus and his chosen disciples.

Given this description, it’s clear that the sermon on the mount is for everyone, religious and non religious, healthy and sick, rich and poor, from every area and every culture, those who already follow Jesus and those who are curious. There is no inner group in this crowd — all come equally at the feet of Jesus to learn from him.

What is the purpose of speaking to this vast and diverse crowd? To me, it shows that learning what Jesus has to teach us is not like scaling a ladder in a hierarchy of achievement, or becoming the star student. There is something for everyone in the sermon on the mount, but no one can master it entirely. I believe Jesus brought together this crowd to remind people of their shared humanity. He shows us that he doesn’t fixate on exclusionary, gated communities or walled off nations; he comes for all of us, and we all have something to learn. His disciples and those he healed did not become object lessons or stand out characters — everyone mingled together. Jesus is the center who brings everyone together in himself.The purpose of the sermon on the mount is for healing, both physically and spiritually.

How does seeing yourself as part of the diverse crowd that Jesus speaks to affect the way you enter this series?

For today’s exercise, meditate on the section of his Sermon on the Mount known as The Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:9-15 ESV

Jesus Speaks to Us All2023-09-10T13:59:32-06:00

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July 4

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. During this ordinary season, our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary.

Source: the Revised Common Lectionary Year A

(Note. If you desire to read these passages in a different version of the Bible, this link will provide all the readings for week 2 in ESV in Bible Gateway where you may also choose other versions of these passages.)

Jeremiah 28:5-9
28:5 Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD;

28:6 and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words that you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles.

28:7 But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people.

28:8 The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.

28:9 As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.”

Application: I often associate “prophecy” with warnings of doom and destruction. As we went though the Book of Jeremiah earlier in the year, there were plenty of those kinds of messages that the prophet spoke. Here, Jeremiah turns toward a new theme, the theme of peace. Reflect on the promise of peace that God has secured through the death and resurrection of Jesus, the peace that God promises will be everlasting. How is your outlook changed by reflecting on this prophesied peace?

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
89:1 I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

89:2 I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

89:3 You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David:

89:4 ‘I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.'” Selah

89:15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O LORD, in the light of your countenance;

89:16 they exult in your name all day long, and extol your righteousness.

89:17 For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted.

89:18 For our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

Application: I have noticed that the way I express my gratitude to God comes back to me, shaping the gratitude I experience. There are many ways to be thankful–very expressively, with one’s whole heart, quietly and heartfelt, whispered into silence and stillness, or continually, bridging the gap between the everyday and God’s grace reflected throughout life. Think of the ways you express thankfulness, find nuances in the ways you approach God in thanks.

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July 42023-06-16T10:48:41-06:00

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July3

Introduction: For hundreds of years many Christian traditions have read passages of scripture using a tool called a lectionary. During this ordinary season, our devotional team decided to resource you with selections from the Revised Common Lectionary. You will encounter texts from the Psalms, the Prophets, and the New Testament as well as formal prayers.

Source: the Revised Common Lectionary Year A

(Note. If you desire to read these passages in a different version of the Bible, this link will provide all the readings for week 2 in ESV in Bible Gateway where you may also choose other versions of these passages.)

Genesis 22:1-14
22:1 After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.”

22:3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him.

22:4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.

22:5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”

22:6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.

22:7 Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

22:8 Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.

22:9 When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.

22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.

22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

22:12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

22:13 And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.

22:14 So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

Rembrandt’s painting of Abraham and Issac is a masterful study of the technique known as chiaroscuro, Italian for “light-dark”. Chiaroscuro uses strong contrasts between light and dark to achieve a bold effect. I love how Rembrandt used this technique in this painting because the style  reflects the subject, the light of God’s direction and the darkness that must have weighed so heavily on Abraham as he prepared to obey God on the mountain.

Take a moment to reflect on the scripture and on the use of light and darkness in this painting.

Psalm 13
13:1 How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

13:2 How long must I bear pain in my soul, and have sorrow in my heart all day long? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

13:3 Consider and answer me, O LORD my God! Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

13:4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”; my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.

13:5 But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

13:6 I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Application: In only six verses, the psalmist moves from thoughts of being abandoned by God, to sorrow, despair, humiliation, trust, and rejoicing. While it is short, each verse is profound.

Is there an area of your life that brings you feelings of abandonment and sorrow? Take the time to unpack your hurts and loneliness and bring it all to God.
Go through each verse of this psalm, one by one. Take your time and reflect on each step you travel.

The Lectionary for Ordinary Times, July32023-06-16T10:46:09-06:00

His Peace — Despite Circumstances

If you could have one wish for yourself, what would it be? Maybe you’d ask for freedom, romantic love, security, family, a safe home, friends, a career, education, or financial security. What if your wish could be granted, but you could not experience peace? This was my experience freshman year in college. I had all
that I had been working toward: a generous scholarship to a prestigious college, good grades and friends. Because of anxiety, I wasn’t able to enjoy any of my good circumstances or accomplishments.

Without peace, even what we dream of cannot be fulfilling. Some circumstances are more peaceful than others, but no circumstance can guarantee perfect peace.

Sometimes a desire for peace can even lead to the opposite condition. Anyone who has lived many years knows this to be true. Jesus’ promise to His disciples, that the Holy Spirit could grant unfailing peace, is so surprising and revolutionary. When Jesus is about to leave His disciples he tells them they can depend on having peace through the gift of the Holy Spirit:

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
John 14:26-27

This passage is brief but it contains so much important guidance.

— The Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity. The Spirit’s guidance will always be congruent with Scripture and Jesus’ example.
— The Spirit can have a constant presence in our lives as comforter, teacher, and defender.
— Jesus is the The Prince of Peace. He has all access to peace and power to grant it. When He says that He will leave us and give us peace
during his absence, we can count on Him.
— Unlike the peace we experience in good circumstances, the peace Jesus gives us cannot be taken away.

I became a Christian a few months after my freshman year in college ended and experienced the most amazing peace. I clearly remember the moment
when I went from extreme anxiety to the perfect peace of Jesus. This was a peace that I had hoped and prayed for, but I did not make it happen — that was 100% clear to me. Only God could have given me that peace. The Holy Spirit had a lot to teach me after I had that experience, and I had so much to learn.
Finding consistent peace was a process. The Holy Spirit has been a faithful and gentle guide throughout the many years since that time.

(Note.  Seeing a doctor about recurring anxiety has also been a tremendous help for me, The Holy Spirit can work through a variety of means!)

His Peace — Despite Circumstances2023-06-12T06:14:05-06:00

Where Do We Put Our Faith?

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:10-14

What does a Spirit filled life look like? What is it to experience that kind of life? I don’t know about you, but I’ve focused too much on verses 12 and 13 in the past: Jesus’ disciples “will do even greater works than [he has been doing]” and Jesus “will do whatever [we] ask in [his] name”. I’ve focused too much on my own ability to assess the quality of “greater works” anticipated by God, or those that quantify as “great” -– while I rely on my own success in asking or pressuring God into answering these prayers in the way that seems best to me.

Upon closer reading (and after a lot of extra effort), I’ve realized Jesus isn’t asking us to focus so much of ourselves to try to quantify the greatness of good works -– our own or anyone else’s. So what is he saying?

10 “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11a Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

    • We need to understand that the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is relational in itself. “Relational” is an often used word in Christianity: I understand what this means by contrasting it to ”transactional”, where everything is done to obtain something – where “relationship” is a means to an alliance in companionship.
    • Just as Jesus relates to his Father, we need to be in relationship with the Holy Spirit, learning, growing, obeying — not using God as a means to attainment — even while we’re doing good.

11 “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”

If it’s too difficult to understand the nature of the Trinity, Jesus gives us option B, which is to believe the evidence of the works he has done.

Sometimes I’ve looked at works of people (who have claimed to be “filled with the Spirit”), more than at Jesus. The first time I remember this happening was when my Dad would watch Catherine Kuhlman on TV. She’d say, “I bee-LEEVE in miracles!”, and I’d think, “that seems a little strange!” Living the life of a TV faith healer did not appeal to me at all. Jesus is asking us to focus on Him, His works and how He interacted with people.

12b “they will do even greater things than these”

    • People by nature like to gauge success, control results, and conform to techniques and formulas. I believe Jesus is asking us to accept this statement by faith – not to analyze what it means in practice. Personally I find faith really exciting because it’s saying we can anticipate seeing the greatest surprises in our own lives and in the lives of other believers.

14 “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

    • Finally, Jesus tells us that prayer is the way to a life filled with the Holy Spirit’s help and guidance. We don’t need to do good works in playing a mysterious cat and mouse game with God; we really need to pray.

Application: Are there areas in your life that you’re trying to manage on your own? I know I have them! Instead try praying that the Holy Spirit will guide and help you in these areas.

Lately my interpretation of praying in faith is to pray about a situation and then just leave it to God. I don’t keep revisiting the topic as if my extra effort and words would sway God. Instead I ask ‘agog’ that He would help me believe He will answer the prayer I would pray if I knew all that He does.

Would that be something that you might want to try as well?

Where Do We Put Our Faith?2023-05-31T13:34:04-06:00

Impossible Promise

A few years ago, I was in Paris enjoying one of my favorite activities, window shopping. Strolling in a neighborhood with many small and interesting stores, one display caught my eye. In this window was a beautiful nesting doll, a symbol of fertility in Russia. Normally, I’m used to seeing these dolls with just a few pieces nesting inside –- perhaps 5 to 8. The doll in this window must have had well over 60 pieces, which is many more than I could have imagined possible.
This elaborate and intricate work of art seems to be a fitting metaphor for the promise God gave Abraham and Sarah, a promise they didn’t have the power to imagine. It’s also a way to expand our understanding of the promises God gives to us.

God had promised Abraham and Sarai not only a son, but a much bigger family. That family would be more numerous than the stars in the sky, blessed by a covenant that would cover descendants generation after generation:

God took him outside and said, “Look at the sky. Count the stars. Can you do it? Count your descendants! You’re going to have a big family, Abram!” Genesis 15:5 MSG

How many of us can relate to the amazement and hope Abraham must have felt when God gave him the promise of a child? There is something so powerful and compelling about having children. In Abraham and Sarah’s time, children were tied closely to social status and security — to be childless was to be vulnerable. While the social norms are different for us, the hope and longing is familiar. Having children guarantees sleepless nights and up close and personal encounters with challenges that range from messy to heartbreaking, yet that’s not enough to dissuade generation after generation to take the plunge.

The promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah was so riveting, in fact, that they were tempted to make having children an end in itself. In their case, their longing for a child year after year turned into taking matters into their own hands. Sarah, impatient with waiting to become pregnant, had Abraham sleep with her maidservant Hagar. While we may not immediately be able to relate to that twist in the story of Abraham and Sarah, it’s not hard, for me at least, to understand their actions. I often made my children into the be all and end all. My children and their well being have, at times, become the most important thing I was living for. Perhaps others can relate to this as well. It’s common for people to feel adrift and empty at the end of child raising, as if God’s purpose for their usefulness has ended with that phase of life. It’s as if we received and opened a beautiful nesting doll from God and then closed a chapter of our story. Whatever our story, we too may be able to relate to fiercely wanting a gift from God, and then getting so wrapped up, getting exactly what we want, that we lose perspective.

Back to the 60 plus layer nesting doll I saw in that Paris shop. Imagine receiving that doll as a gift and beginning to unpack the layers — one after another after another. That’s what God’s promise of descendants to Abraham and to us, through faith, is like. Just like Abraham and Sarah, we want to focus on what’s easy to understand and expect — at least one or two, maybe three or four children. God has so much more for us. If you have never had children, if you are hoping for children who have not yet come, or have raised them and now contemplate a new season in life, God’s promise to us is so much bigger than we can grasp or imagine. He promises to bless many through our faith, and there is no limit in time or circumstance when He can work through us.


Imagine receiving a beautiful nesting doll from God and beginning to unpack the layers inside. How has God worked through you to bring a blessing to “descendants” — literal or figurative? What season are you in at the moment? Is it full of promise for children or are those days for you reaching an end? Did you hope for a season of children that has not come yet or that you were not at all able to experience? Pray for wisdom and faith to see how God can expand your vision of His promises and work through you whatever your circumstances or life stage.

Impossible Promise2023-05-20T09:49:15-06:00

Marriage and Parenting – Who’s on first?

Navigating family life with grace and consistency was a never-ending challenge for me. I was a stay-at-home mom, and setting a family vision and its implementation fell on me. There were so many moving pieces — including, but not limited to: Metaphorical baggage, literal baggage, personalities, quirks, finances, extended family, pets, chores, learning styles, love languages, friends (or lack thereof), vacations, technology, and school. The one constant were the questions — “Will we or won’t we survive this endless summer and/or school year?” And “Did I feel totally rested two or three decades ago?”

It’s not that I wasn’t trying to learn how to do better as a parent and wife. Given the “Rube Goldberg machine under construction” nature of parenting in our home, advice I heard in church didn’t help. Put God first, your spouse next, then church!” Put on your oxygen mask!” “Plan regular date nights!” What I heard was “Do more!” What I needed was a total overhaul, not bumper sticker “worthy advice”.

Now that it’s established that I have lots of experience and no helpful advice, let’s consider some passages from Scripture. I do think I would have done a better job and been less stressed if I had understood and been able to implement spiritual direction.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26 The Message

  • Parents are not supposed to devote all of their energy and attention toward family members, either their spouse or children. Only Jesus deserves being the number one priority; our love for family members cannot usurp that place. I think that’s an amazingly liberating idea.

Jesus said, “The first [commandment] in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” Mark 12:30-31 The Message

  • This passage reiterates what was said in Luke, and adds a twist — “Love others as well as you love yourself.” I suppose each one of us may find half of that command difficult. I fall on the side of loving others more than myself, a great recipe for depletion. It’s not only pragmatic and smart to love oneself, it’s also commanded. Whether we find it easier to love others or to love ourselves, we need to be reminded by this passage that healthy life, marriage, and parenting require that the loop gets closed.

Children, do what your parents tell you. This is only right. “Honor your father and mother” is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, “so you will live well and have a long life.” Ephesians 6:1-3 The Message

  • Loving our children well requires that we remember what our relationship with them is supposed to look like. The relationship between parents and between parents and their children is very different from what we normally see. The parent child role is supposed to be one of teaching and honor. Compare this to the relation between parents, which is defined according to mutual submission, love and respect. I see this as parents setting the tone and example in the family, together, for their children.


As you read these passages, which stand out to you? Rather than comparing how badly or well your family relations compare to these verses, just take time to ask God for wisdom and direction as you participate in family life. Ask the Holy Spirit for strength and understanding as you relate to your spouse and teach your children.

Marriage and Parenting – Who’s on first?2023-05-13T09:56:33-06:00

Christian Marriage: A Revolutionary Design

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Ephesians 5:21-33

This passage has often been used as a blueprint for gender roles in Christian marriage. It has also been used to reinforce preexisting cultural norms, rather than subjecting those norms to biblical scrutiny. In my opinion, these approaches do not capture just how revolutionary this passage is meant to be for Christian marriage. If we can get some distance from how this passage applies to us and just take the time to think about what Paul is saying, we may be more receptive to its message. I believe one way we can get a fresh start is to think about how different Paul’s view of marriage was for an audience in the Ancient World.

In both Ancient Roman and Jewish marriages, husbands ruled over their homes. In Roman marriage, men controlled the property. Men had absolute control over children and, to a lesser extent, their wives. Households were “under” the husband’s “hand. In Jewish marriages men controlled the family and were “lord” and “master” of the house. The wife was expected to “help” him by providing children. The will of the husband was binding on the whole family.

Marriage based on Mutual Submission: Marriage in the Ancient world was based on fixed gender roles that wives and husbands played, Paul begins this passage on a very different note — a call to mutual submission. Submission is an attitude rather than a formula or set of rules to follow. Submission is such a loaded word — to me, anyway, it connotes: setting aside one’s free will and good judgment. I wonder if this passage would make more sense if “submit to one another” was replaced with “serve one another”.

Marriage based on love:  Paul then goes on to zoom in on what “submission” means for a husband, and that is to love his wife. I wonder if this is Paul’s instruction for men in the Ancient world as a correction for the cultural view that a man was to “rule” his household. Rather than being something like the CEO of his home, a Christian husband was being told to act with love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV

Marriage based on respect:  I once attended a seminar called “Love and Respect”. The premise was that Paul commanded men to love their wives because love is what wives need. Similarly, he commanded that wives respect their husbands. That didn’t make sense to me because men and women both need love and respect. I have an alternative idea. What if Paul commands wives to respect their husbands because that was not a trait that Ancient marriage cultivated? If men had the absolute right to rule their homes, I can imagine that wives had very little incentive to be respectful — except as they were forced to be.

Marriage that’s “All In”:  Ancient Roman and Jewish marriages involved conforming to traditional norms. Christian marriage involved a spiritual dimension that required action based on thought and inward reflection. Paul is not creating a checklist of duties for marriage partners; this passage requires much more.

Application: Compare your view of marriage to the Roman, Jewish, and Christian standards. What can you learn about yourself?

Christian Marriage: A Revolutionary Design2023-05-07T16:52:38-06:00

Covenantal Marriage: What It Means to be All In

Do we not all have one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our ancestors by being unfaithful to one another?

Judah has been unfaithful. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the Lord loves by marrying women who worship a foreign god. As for the man who does this, whoever he may be, may the Lord remove him from the tents of Jacob—even though he brings an offering to the Lord Almighty.

Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer looks with favor on your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, “Why?” It is because the Lord is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring.[d] So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 2:10-16 NIV

Throughout the Bible we see God working toward an extremely high standard for our broken world and fragile relationships: shalom (peace) – His kingdom coming to earth – He does so through covenantal relationships between Himself and people and between people. While God is absolutely Holy, the people He works through are fragile and flawed. Covenants are relationships that embrace God’s holy standards and our weaknesses.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on the differences between a contract and a covenant. However, I believe the gist is this:

A contract is a legal agreement that is broken when the rules are broken by parties to it.
A covenant is a pledge meant to be maintained even if the parties to it violate their commitments.

Like the relationship between God and his people, marriage is a covenant designed to endure for the long haul and to withstand stress, and even become stronger with testing.

What does this mean for us as we work toward God’s holy standards through the messiness of our marriages? There are no easy answers or neat lists of techniques for understanding how we are to live within the covenant of marriage. One thing is certain, that understanding requires a level of wisdom that can’t be found by reading books or successfully having navigated other types of relationships. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread – I’m going to propose some explanations but am not posing as an expert!

Covenants keep the long term in mind: While contracts are fairly black and white, covenants are designed for long term relationships and are able to tolerate more ambiguity. Every misstep is not grounds for termination/divorce.

Covenants mean our actions matter: While covenants are better able to handle missteps and mistakes, the parties’ actions still matter. It is clear from the passage in Malachi that God detests unfaithfulness to covenants. A covenantal relationship like marriage is not something one party can take for granted, leaving all the burden of maintaining the commitment on the other — both parties need to be committed.

Covenants — Are they perpetually valid? This is a subject that is way beyond my pay grade. We know that God has extremely high standards for covenantal relationships, but there are grounds for breaking them. In what circumstances does the Bible allow divorce? Is adultery the only permissible way out of a harmful marriage? Is it enough for only one spouse to be all in in a marriage? Or do both have to take responsibility for being “all in”?

Covenantal Marriage: What It Means to be All In2023-04-30T23:03:46-06:00
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